CHAMPCAR/CART: Newman/Haas Racing Fontana qualifying report

Marlboro 500 Saturday, November 3, 2001 Da Matta Matched Best Qualifying Position With 2nd Place For CART Season-Ending Marlboro 500 While Defending Winner Fittipaldi Satisfied With 5th Place Start POLE SITTER: Alex Tagliani 31.935 228.727 ...

Marlboro 500
Saturday, November 3, 2001

Da Matta Matched Best Qualifying Position With 2nd Place For CART Season-Ending Marlboro 500 While Defending Winner Fittipaldi Satisfied With 5th Place Start

POLE SITTER: Alex Tagliani 31.935 228.727 mph
2nd Cristiano da Matta 32.009 228.198 mph
5th Christian Fittipaldi 32.117 227.431 mph

CRISTIANO da MATTA, #6 Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota-Lola: "I started the first race of the season in second place and won and I am starting the last race of the season in second place so I hope to do the same as in Mexico. We wanted to try to get the pole for Toyota but we came up short. Now we will work toward getting the win since that pays 20 points and some big bucks too. We knew we had a car capable of pole so I am not happy but I wouldn't say I am disappointed with second place. The car has been good since we unloaded it. (This weekend compared to Michigan 500:) We made a big improvement since Michigan with the car. On Friday in Michigan we weren't so good because the car was set-up more for Michael (Andretti, whom he replaced) and Christian than it was for me. I was a little happier on Saturday and happy with the car on Sunday. We fought for the win with five laps to go but ended up finishing fourth even though our airjack broke on our first stop and we went down one lap every time we came in because we had to use the quick jack. We would have been in much better shape if that hadn't happened on the first stop. Hopefully we will have an easier race tomorrow."

* NOTE: Matched his best overall career CART start of second place (Mexico/road course) and scored his best start on an oval. Will be his third event here and first with NHR. Retired in the '00 event after a piece from Paul Tracy's race car hit his front suspension and caused him to crash. Engine failure led to a 23rd place finish in 1999. Not only finished his first ever 500-mile race in CART earlier this season in his first 500-mile race with NHR in Michigan but also challenged for the win with 5 laps to o go despite having his airjack break on the first of numerous pit stops forcing him to go one lap down to the leaders with each longer stop. Ran as high as second in the race and ran the second fastest race lap.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Kmart Toyota-Lola: "We got the maximum out of the car. We made some radical changes for qualifying and I knew we would either be up front or in the back but I'm pretty happy with fifth place because you can win from anywhere here. I've been a bad boy this year and haven't scored many points compared to the other Toyota drivers so I didn't get or deserve the qualifying motor. That's normal and I completely understand. My car was good though and I am happy to be the second highest Toyota driver. The engine is strong and my car feels good in race trim so I hope the race will end like it did last year. On Friday we only worked on the race set-up and I am very, very happy with the car. Today we trimmed it out a little for qualifying but you only get one point for pole and it doesn't matter where you start in this race. To win a 500-mile race is like taming a beast. You have to be very patient and methodical and have a little luck as well. It's going to be a long, hot race and I hope it ends the way it did last year."

* NOTE: Led 35 laps en route to victory in the 2000 event. Will be his fifth race here. In four previous starts, he scored two podium finishes (1st in 2000, 3rd in 1999) and finished in the top-9 all four times (7th - 1998, 9th in 1997). In the 1999 event, he set the fastest race lap. He has led a total of 72 laps at this track (35 in 2000, 37 in 1999).

IN 500-MILE EVENTS: Fittipaldi surpassed his previous best 500-mile finish of 2nd place in the 1995 Indy 500 when he won the 2000 Marlboro 500 at The California Speedway. He led one lap in the previous 500-mile race this season in Michigan before he made contact with the pit wall while entering the pits for his first pit stop and retired in 18th place.

Qualifying for the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota will air 1:30 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ESPN's live race broadcast begins 3:30 p.m. ET. Sunday's race will also air live on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com

- NHR -

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Cristiano da Matta